2011 Florida Gators Football: Predicting the Starters on Offense
Urban Meyer is gone, off to Bristol where he will analyze instead of coach.
Gone with him is the spread offense, which delivered the Gators two of the last five BCS national championships.
Arriving along with new head coach Will Muschamp is offensive coordinator Charlie Weis, who has installed a pro-style system. It will take some adjusting, but here is an early look (subject to change) as to who I think will trot out for Florida's first series on offense in the 2011 season.
QB John Brantley
Better served to run a pro attack, which will utilize his arm, than a spread, which requires more legwork than he prefers, look for senior John Brantley to have his best season as a Gator in 2011.
No longer will he be asked to run the same type of plays that made Tim Tebow one of the best quarterbacks in college football history. No, this year John Brantley will have the chance to do what he does best: throw the ball to a variety of receivers.
TB Jeff Demps
Track obligations made it so Demps did not participate in Muschamp's first set of spring drills, but the fastest player in college football is the incumbent and the best bet to start the season atop the depth chart.
Demps is a potential game-breaker who is more than just a fast guy playing football. He is slippery with the ball and more powerful than he looks. And when he finds his way into the open field...goodbye!
WR Chris Rainey
Like Demps, Rainey adds an extra gear few in college football can match. And if his burner of a counterpart hasn't grasped the nuances of playing tailback for Weis, look for Rainey to start there (and Frankie Hammond, Jr. here).
For now, we'll assume Demps will be up to speed, allowing both jets to be on the field together.
WR Deonte Thompson
The most experienced receiver on Florida's roster, Thompson might also be the one with the most to prove.
Now a fifth-year senior, Thompson has been dogged with the drops for a couple of seasons, and it is time for him to show he can be reliable.
He has this going for him: Ever since their days together on the scout team, John Brantley has never lost faith in the Belle Glade Glades Central (Fla.) product. Now, Thompson can reward that faith.
WR Quinton Dunbar
This is the toughest call of the receiving corps, as Omarius Hines, Andre Debose or Frankie Hammond, Jr. could fill this spot.
I'm going with Dunbar, a 6'1", 170-pound sophomore who Muschamp praised throughout spring practice. It goes a long way to catch the eye of the coach early. If he can continue his strong practice work in the fall, Dunbar could earn a starting job.
TE Jordan Reed
Muschamp and Weis haven't completely discounted Reed once again playing some quarterback, however, for now, the 6'3", 237-pound redshirt sophomore is a tight end.
Reed has unique athleticism, and having played quarterback, it's probably fair to say he might be able to find an edge every so often against a defense that others at his position wouldn't.
Look for true freshman A.C. Leonard also to see plenty of snaps.
OT Chaz Green
A 6'5", 289-pound redshirt freshman, Green finished spring practice as the starter in Marcus Gilbert's old right tackle slot.
Green needs to add some weight, but he has good feet, long arms and a natural feel for the position. One wild card here is oft-injured Matt Patchan, a tremendously talented kid who just hasn't been able to stay healthy.
OT Xavier Nixon
As a sophomore starting at left tackle, Nixon had some rough moments in 2010. But really, who didn't have a tough time against Marcell Dareus?
Now a more experienced player, the 6'6", 290-pound Nixon has the talent and athleticism to eventually become one of the Southeastern Conference's best blockers on the outside.
OG Jonotthan Harrison
At 6'3", 300 pounds, Harrison is a strong run blocker and improving pass blocker.
The Groveland (Fla.) South Lake product also has shown the versatility to play center, should Sam Robey or Nick Alajajian falter. Just a third-year sophomore, Harrison's best days probably are in front of him.
OG Jon Halapio
This will be the year Halapio gets noticed for being more than the Gator with the best hair on the team.
A bull as a run blocker, there are those on the former staff who said Halapio had a game or two where he outperformed eventual Miami Dolphins' first-round pick Mike Pouncey. That's strong praise—and it all came after Pouncey had worked through his early-season shotgun snapping snafus.
A 6'3", 303-pound redshirt sophomore, Halapio also can play tackle.
C Sam Robey
The son of former Kentucky and NBA big man Rick Robey, Sam has waited patiently behind Maurkice and Mike Pouncey the last two seasons.
Now, if he can hold off 6'4", 295-pound redshirt sophomore Nick Alajajian, the job finally will belong to the 6'3", 302-pound junior from the Bluegrass State.
There was talk in the spring of 2010 that Robey might have done enough to allow Mike Pouncey to remain at guard after twin brother Maurkice defected early to the NFL, but then-coach Urban Meyer eventually deemed his offense was better with Mike Pouncey at center and Robey as the backup.
Now, the job is Robey's.
PK Caleb Sturgis
After what was essentially a lost 2010 season, the 2009 Groza Award semifinalist has returned at full strength after being given a medical redshirt last year because of a back injury. He did play in the first four games of Urban Meyer's final campaign, making 2-of-4 field goals and 19-of-21 PATs.
For his career, the redshirt junior from St. Augustine is 24-of-34 on field goals (with a long of 56 yards) and 65-of-70 on PATs. He also has 26 touchbacks on 216 career kickoffs.